BLUE LAKE, Calif. — On Tuesday, a collaboration between Empower Protect Invest (EPI) and the North Coast Rape Crisis Team resulted in the first Humboldt Against Sexual Exploitation (HASE) Conference.
Local and national organizations were present at the conference at the Blue Lake Casino to increase awareness of human trafficking in the community and discuss topics including the link between sexual exploitation and Native American tribes, the history of human trafficking in Humboldt County and more.
"If they are going to come to a place where individuals don't believe that [human trafficking] is happening and 'not in my community,' then they are prime vulnerabilities," EPI Awareness Director Tina Taylor-Sims said.
Among the presenters at the conference was Radical Empathy Education Foundation (REEF) Executive Director Billy Joe Cain. REEF offers virtual reality trainings to provide education on human trafficking, which attendees were able to participate in during the conference.
"I'm trying to warn parents and let them understand that when they let their kids go online, if they are not watching them right there at that very second, it's basically like leaving your kid alone on the side of the road. You have no idea what's happening with your children," Cain said.
According to organizers, the goal is to make the conference a recurring event, with the next one tentatively scheduled for 2025.
"We need law enforcement, we need the Department of Health and Human Services, child welfare and rape crisis centers and any other partner who's willing to come to the table in order to try to identify and empower and to really end sex trafficking and labor trafficking in Humboldt County," North Coast Rape Crisis Team Executive Director Amanda LeBlanc said.
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